Due For All Tasks

Ben Brooks recently wrote about how he uses Due as his high priority reminder system. He started out using it as most do, for static, repeating reminders (take out the trash, stop for dinner, etc.). The power started to come out when he started adding his short term tasks that are easy to forget (like calling someone in 15 minutes or sending an update in a few hours).

For those of you not familiar with Due, it is a task list app that allows you to have constant reminders of a due task (the interval can be customized from any minute to any hour). These reminders will alert you on your iOS devices and/or Apple Watch. There are a few more features, but it is “auto snooze” that is the killer feature here.

I started using Due for similar purposes to Ben and then took it a step further to manage all my tasks. I had been using OmniFocus for a long time because it was the power user’s choice. Still a great task management app (and even better now that the iOS app finally supports Push sync), it really had too much power for my lists. After floating around between some simple list apps and falling down the TaskPaper rabbit hole, I settled on Due back in February (I have “auto snooze” turned off on most tasks). I think I am well on my way to cementing Due into my routine (and hopefully it will continue to stick).

The problem with "calories"

Conor McClure:

Do I think calorie counting is critical, or even necessary, for weight loss? I truly don’t, certainly not for long-term, sustainable weight loss. The best possible solution that I’ve found is working to change the way your body processes and partitions the fuel it is given. It is sometimes said: obesity is a disorder of inappropriately accumulating fat, not a disorder of eating too many calories.

The whole article contains some great insights from a reliable source (Conor is studying to get a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree).

Why I Returned My Apple Watch

Last week my wife surprised me with a trip to the Apple Store to purchase an Apple Watch. Ultimately I decided to return the watch, but let’s start with the positives.

Positives

During my time with Apple Watch I did appreciate getting notifications on my wrist. It was convenient to be able to see important notifications without having to pull my phone out of my pocket. Having Siri on my wrist was also a plus, however, it is not always appropriate (in public) or feasible (in a noisy environment) to talk to your wrist. The battery life was also good, always lasting me a whole day (even when spending time playing with it).

Negatives

With the limited capability of a small screen for input, Apple Watch relies heavily on Siri for capturing text. While I found Siri to work well, the usefulness was greatly diminished in noisy locations (even just at home with the TV on). Also working a corporate job in a cube, Siri provided me no utility during the work day.

Apple Watch also seems slow: glances don’t update in a timely fashion and apps need to load before most interactions can occur. For me, the glances are a key feature. Without regular and reliable updates of the glances, I cannot depend on being able to quickly check the weather or see if I have any upcoming tasks in OmniFocus. I’m sure watchOS updates will improve the overall slowness, but I’m not willing to take the chance that it might take a hardware revision.

Interaction is also an issue for me. I really like the Digital Crown and wish it was available for more interactions. I find hitting the right touch target on the screen difficult sometimes, and can think of many ways the Digital Crown could make things easier.

Health Features

With a heart rate monitor, Apple Watch has the potential to be a better workout companion than the standard step tracker. In reality, it’s not. Let’s get something straight first though: no “fitness tracker” will ever accurately measure your calorie burn (and as for intake, a calorie is not just a calorie).

The step tracker portion of Apple Watch seems to work as well as any other device, however, the heart rate monitor falls short. I found it to be slow when using it during a run.

One of the software features other users have been talking about is the Activity feature (concentric circles that fill based on movement, exercise, and standing). I was disappointed to find that only activity measured with the watch counted towards these goals (this will change with watchOS 2).

Overall, Apple Watch is a fine step tracker, but it doesn’t provide anything more (in my mind at least) than the cheaper options on the market. For serious fitness, we still lack a good way to track strength training, and for heart rate monitoring, a chest monitor works better.

Turning Point

After getting over the gadget nerd excitement and newness of Apple Watch, I started to think about the value I was getting out of my interactions with the watch. Is it really worth $450 to be able to check notifications and interact with Siri on my wrist? Ultimately the decision was no, or at least not yet. Looking back at the first iPhone, I see a future of great improvements for Apple Watch. I’m sure all my issues will be ironed out and I will be a believer in the future.

Notes Update

Back in April I wrote about how I used nvALT, Simplenote, and Evernote for my note taking needs. Since then, I have made some changes:

Plain Text

Anything that is suitable for plain text gets stored in nvALT/Simplenote rather than Evernote. For me, the speed and simplicity of plain text is important. I have notes with everything from lists, frequent flyer numbers, and keyboard shortcuts I commonly forget.

I have decided that the convenience of using just one app everywhere outweighs the speed of plain text notes. I now use Evernote for everything. For quick entry on OS X, the menu bar icon with a keyboard shortcut comes in handy. On iOS, I use Drafts to quickly capture text. Drafts then allows me to send the text to Evernote. I’ve even set up some custom actions that allow me to append text to certain notes.

Tags

As for tags, I use them in Evernote for ease of finding documents.

For simplicity I’ve done away with tags. With the excellent search and OCR capabilities of Evernote, I find that between the titles and content of all my notes/documents, I have no trouble finding what I need.

Offline Notebooks

I’ve found offline notebooks (Evernote Premium feature) incredibly useful with this change. I made my notebook for my quick notes (what I used to keep in plain text) offline so I have easy access to it on my iPhone if I don’t have an internet connection.

Fitness in Marriage

Coming up on ten months of marriage, I am still discovering new reasons why marriage is amazing. Soon after our wedding, my wife and I decided that we wanted to make an effort to eat better and become more fit. We both purchased FitBit Zip exercise trackers, started counting our calories with MyFitnessPal, and started exercising regularly.

Where does marriage come into play?

As a married couple, we are committed to being our best and always supporting each other. We are finding ways that we are complementary all the time, including with our push to become more fit. My wife is always the one to encourage healthy eating choices (I love my desserts, especially chocolate, a bit too much). I am the one that motivates us to get out the door and exercise. It is amazing to see how strengths in one partner can correct for weakness in the other.

How has it been going?

We’ve both been doing well, loosing weight gradually and keeping up with regular exercise. This past week our streak became derailed with some unhealthy eating choices and the inevitable weight gain. This morning, realizing we were unhappy with our recent performance, we discussed what we could do to get back on track.

With our success, we had started getting lax with counting calories. Underlying all diets is the basic idea that you loose weight when you eat less calories than you burn. Without a good idea of how many calories you ate and how many were expended during the day, it is easy to start moving back to your old habits. This was our main issue.

How are we going to fix it?

  • Be strict about counting calories again (MyFitnessPal for food and FitBit to track activity)

  • Make sure we eat a well-rounded diet (we signed up for a CSA for the summer)

  • Provide each other with support for eating well and exercising

  • Now that the weather is good, get outside more

With all these changes, we should hopefully be back on track soon!